Spotlight Virtual Concert Series: A City, A Belonging featuring the poetry of Sasha Suarez

MacPhail Center for Music presents a SPOTLIGHT VIRTUAL CONCERT SERIES performance A City, A Belonging. This piece is part of a musical film trilogy (alongside Letters Home and Dissertation) that evolved from the 2021- 2022 Spotlight Concert Series.






MISCHA SANTORA, videography 

MACPHAIL SPOTLIGHT Virtual Concert Series: A CITY, A BELONGING featuring the poetry of SASHA SUAREZ

About A City, A Belonging

A City, A Belonging is part of a film trilogy (alongside Letters Home and Dissertation) that evolved from the 2021- 2022 Spotlight Concert Series. We teamed up with three local poets of Indigenous background, curated by one of our guest artists, Anthony Ceballos, creating musical performances along their narrative content. 

I am deeply grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Sasha Suarez and MacPhail teaching artist and composer Christopher Rochester, as well as all the brilliant collaborating performers. I hope that these short performance films build on the Spotlight tradition of creating inspiring, thought-provoking content, building stronger ties to our community, and perhaps most importantly, giving platform to a wide array of voices and lived experiences.

Mischa Santora, Artistic Director Spotlight Concert Series 

A City, A Belonging by Sasha Suarez

anishinaabekwe stands on river shore,
water a series of scattered ice crack veins,
a chorus of howling wind and honking cars,
she remembers the way oookomisan loved
the waters of this city, held kwe over shorelines,
fists clenching shirt backs to let her fingertips drift
the surface. suspension is a feeling
anishinaabekwe is used to. that uncertainty
of slipping.

mewinzha apane gaa’waabamagiban imbaabaa

when kwe was kwezens, she used to roam tick-filled grasses,
socks peeled off, broad, brown feet meeting earth
and the scent of summer fresh and warm.
giiwedinong, where sharp rains left muddy trails
her stepsisters took as shortcut and she never knew
quite where they were going. it was unknown, giiwedinong.
kwe used to sit on a freshly mowed lawn
somewhere between a half-broken trampoline and the door,
suspended between obaabaayan and the bear
that lingered just on the edge of Cloquet woods,
and kwe remembered wondering how her father ended up
here, not city-bound, not back the way
aanikoobijiganag moved, but instead so close to gichigami
they went once or twice just because and what did it mean
that kwe felt lost so far from gichi-ziibing, the sound of sirens, and manicured city lawns?

gakaabikaang. gakaabikaang. gakaabikaang

kwe sometimes repeat her city’s name,
mantra or signal she hopes reaches out
in the winter night. a hum that comforts
against snowdrifts painted streetlight orange,
a reminder of anchor, a piece of akii that knows
her as being here on river shores, city streets,
old houses with memories hidden deep in walls,
and a history that twists through kwe and city,
finds a way to keep her just above water.
kwe loves the city with a love that isn’t a wonder,
that is all ache and thrum, a need to hold on,
hold on, hold on, and this city may not promise safety,
but it tries to keep her from drowning,
keep her dressed in warmth of stories and belonging,
familiar paths where she always knows where she’s been
and where she’s going, hand in hand with memories,
gakaabikaang vibrant all around her.



Sasha Suarez

Sasha Maria Suarez (White Earth Ojibwe) is a scholar, poet, essayist, and short story writer who currently resides in Teejop (Madison, Wisconsin) where she works as an assistant professor of history and American Indian studies. Her writing centers on urban Ojibwe experience, Indigenous history, resistance, and belonging. Her academic work is featured in Indian Cities: Histories of Indigenous Urbanism (University of Oklahoma Press).


Christopher Rochester

Christopher Rochester is an African American musician, educator, and composer that has been working at the professional level for 15 years.  He has studied and played with artists such as Greg Osby, George Garzone, Scotty Barnhart (current leader of the Count Basie Band), Bill Pierce, and many other musicians at the forefront of the music industry. Chris was exposed to many Black American cultural practices during his youth and was fortunate enough to be able to quickly understand how much influence that culture plays in music.  This has afforded him the ability to both perform and teach in a way that shines light on the cultural influences of Black American traditions.


Charmaine Douglas

Charmaine Douglas is a singer, songwriter, and pianist from Saint Paul, Minnesota. A vocalist for MacPhail’s Global Music Initiative, she began teaching in early 2021 as an instructor at School of Rock, and soon found her passion for early learning. She is thrilled to be an instructor for Sing Play Learn with MacPhail®!

Kavyesh playing piano

Kavyesh Kaviraj

Kavyesh Kaviraj is a Minneapolis- based pianist, composer, and arranger from India. His versatility and experience working in various styles and genres of music makes him a valuable addition to any band. Kavyesh is a skilled and sought-after composer who brings every musical influence in his life to his original music; rooted in jazz yet encompassing not-so closely related worlds in a unique, and boundary-breaking, magnetic persona.

Mischa's headshot

Mischa Santora

Mischa Santora is one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial conductors of his generation. Appointed music director of the Boston Ballet in 2018, he conducts the majority of their performances with the Boston Ballet Orchestra at the Boston Opera House. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Mr. Santora produced a number of creative audio and video projects, including compositions for soundtracks, editing and mixing of soundscapes, as well as producing, filming, and editing of musical film projects. In addition to his busy conducting schedule, Mr. Santora is the artistic director of the Minnesota Bach Ensemble, with performances at Antonello Hall. Mr. Santora’s recent composition activities include music for theatrical productions, orchestral works, and soundtracks for film, TV/radio, and podcasts. He is the founder of a promising audio start-up company SONICITY, offering customizable high-fidelity soundtracks for creative professionals.

Published on Date: Sep 25, 2023
To Top